BOOK REVIEW: The Darkest Minds – by Alexandra Bracken

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Title: The Darkest Minds
(The Darkest Minds #1)
Author: Alexandra Bracken

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia
First published: December 18th 2012
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Finished reading: January 21st 2017
Pages: 499
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“The darkest minds tend to hide behind the most unlikely faces.”

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I still can’t believe it took me more than TWO years to finally pick up my copy of The Darkest Minds. I’ve been wanting to start this series for ages, but somehow I always ended up picking up a different title instead. But no longer. Now I’ve finally read the first book of this series Alexandra Bracken has me hooked. No more escape for the sequels, because I will be reading them VERY soon for another dose of my favorite Psi characters. I can definitely undestand what all the hype is about now… Sure, the plot isn’t all that original with its dystopian world where kids and teenagers develop a ‘superbrain’ and special powers. But it WAS written back in 2012 so I definitely kept that in mind. And more importantly, this story was just way too entertaining to worry about  the originality in the first place. I liked the main characters and their development, although little Zu is probably my absolute favorite. Ruby on the other hand can come over as a bit whiney at points, but I guess she did have some complicated memories to deal with… Another great feature of The Darkest Minds is without doubt the writing style and pace. The prose was so enjoyable to read and the story itself reads like a train. All in all a promising start of what has all the signs of being a great series!

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When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed even though she didn’t realize it at first. She found out soon enough when her parents locked her up in the garage and called the police instead of celebrating Ruby’s birthday with her. Instead, she was sent to the Thurmond camp along with all the other children who survived the mysterious disease and showed signs of having the new frightening abilities they could not control… And life at Thurmond is tough. Ruby is now sixteen and one of the dangerous ones. They put her in the wrong group when she arrived, saving her life at first but putting her in danger if the truth comes out. She has to escape, but that will only be possible with help from the inside…

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Like I said before, I feel really bad about not picking up this series earlier. As I already suspected, I really enjoyed reading The Darkest Minds and I will be reading the sequels (or at least the second book) next month without fail. Both the writing style and character are easy to like and even though the plot might not be all that original, I enjoyed diving into this dystopian world anyway. Recommended for YA dystopian fans!


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ARC REVIEW: It’s All Absolutely Fine – by Ruby Elliot

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Title: It’s All Absolutely Fine
Author: Ruby Elliot

Genre: Graphic Novel, Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: January 31st 2017
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: January 15th 2017
Pages: 256
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“That’s what you need sometimes, whether it’s a dog or a cat or a jazzy lizard or something else entirely that provides you with some emotional respite when it’s all too messy – a tiny yet significant port in an almighty storm.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I confess I don’t have a lot of experience reading graphic novels, but when I saw It’s All Absolutely Fine at Netgalley I was immediately intrigued by the promise of a combination of simple drawings and a down-to-earth description of the daily struggles of life with mental illness. It is a topic that has always interested me for various reasons… And It’s All Absolutely Fine is without doubt another title to add to my list of favorites talking about mental illness. Why? First of all, I found it really easy to connect to the little stories. Ruby Elliot shows life as it is without trying to hide the ugly parts, and I can really appreciate the sincerity of it all. This bundle switches between short essays and illustrations that show the reader Ruby’s experiences living with social anxiety and the daily struggles of life with mental illness. Simple drawings of sometimes ‘simple’ situations, but with a huge dose of sharp humor for maximum effect.

I think this illustration above gives just the right idea of what I’m talking about… Ruby Elliot‘s drawings are sometimes brutally honest, but they always feel 100% real. It’s both an entertaining and eye-opening read that will appeal both to anyone interested in the topic and fans of memoirs such as Furiously Happy.

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It’s All Absolutely Fine is both an honest and unapologetic account of Ruby’s daily struggle living with mental illness. She uses simple drawings and a few short essays to talk about themes like mood disorders, anxiety and issues with body image; all sprinkled with the right dose of humor. Each chapter talks about a different set of struggles, and every aspect is talked about openly without hiding the ugly parts.

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It’s All Absolutely Fine is a graphic novel and memoir that tries to both show what it is to live with mental illness and tell other people that it is okay to not feel okay. The drawings might be simple, but are brutally honest and have a dose of sharp humor for maximum effect. I really enjoyed reading this story and I think anyone interested in the topic would enjoy reading It’s All Absolutely Fine as well. Recommended!


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ARC REVIEW: The Thankful – by Jamie Campbell

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Title: The Thankful
Author: Jamie Campbell

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
First published: August 19th 2016
Publisher: Eltham Press
Finished reading: January 12th 2017
Pages: 132
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“Like most everyone else in the world that day they had no real idea. What they has was a feeling. A weight in their stomachs that anatomy text books could not explain.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Confession: I’ve had The Thankful pending for way too long. I’m not sure why though, because this historical fiction ARC about the May War of 1940 in the Netherlands sounded truly fascinating. I grew up in the Netherlands myself and I’m aware of the basic facts of what happened in the country, but it’s been a long time since I last read a story with so many details. Jamie Campbell does a great job of explaining exactly what happened during those days with the help of the main character Ruth. The Thankful basically follows her story as she tries to escape the Germans, but you will learn what happened during the May War along the way. The choice to leave many Dutch and German words without translation is without doubt original, although I do think it would have been a lot more difficult to enjoy the story if I wouldn’t have been able to understand those languages myself. The geography can be quite confusing as well (even for me and I grew up there), but those are only two minor details in an otherwise excellent description of the May War. If you want to learn more about how the Netherlands ended up being invaded by the Germans during WWII, The Thankful is without doubt a great choice. A lot more entertaining than a simple history book without losing its historical accuracy!

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The twelve-year-old Ruth Imker with Jewish heritage has been running for most of her life. She had to leave Vienna because it was no longer safe, but before long she couldn’t stay in Cologne either. They sent her to Rotterdam, because the Netherlands was supposed to be safe. But even though the Dutch didn’t expect it, the Germans came during the early morning of the tenth of May 1940. Ruth will have to run again and try to find a way to get to England… And she has an unlikely protector to help her. Will they be able to escape?

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Even though the story might be a bit more difficult to understand for those who don’t understand Dutch and German due to the use of certain use in that language, I still think it is a great read for those who want to learn more about the May War. Apart from the words in foreign languages, the rest of the story is both intriguing and easy to follow; you will find yourself hoping the characters will be able to find a way out. Not perfect, but without doubt an interesting historical fiction read!


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BOOK REVIEW: Wuthering Heights – by Emily Brontë

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Title: Wuthering Heights
Author: Emily Brontë
Genre: Classics, Fiction, Romance
First published: 1847
Publisher: Penguin Books
Finished reading: December 31st 2016
Pages: 360
(Audio duration 13hs 14m 06s)
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“I have dreamt in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind. And this is one: I’m going to tell it – but take care not to smile at any part of it.”

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I was browsing my list of reviews the other day and realized I totally forgot to write my review on my last read of 2016. Oops? So this is me making up for that. My last read of 2016 was actually an audiobook I listened to on Audible of one of the popular classics: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. It was my first experience with the Brontë sister’s books and I have to say it was quite a positive one. I’m still a newbie when it comes to listening to audiobooks, but I found my experience listening to the story of Heathcliff and Catherine to be so much more entertaining than I thought I would! Sure, there is a lot of drama going on and I didn’t really like every character, but I found myself looking forward to my time with the inhabitants of Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights. It’s a bit hard to properly judge the writing style by just listening to the prose, but I’m quite positive I would enjoy reading the physical version of Wuthering Heights just as much. I definitely have it marked for a ‘reread’ some time in the future!

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Lockwood is the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange on the bleak Yorkshire moors. One night he is forced to seek shelter at the home of his landlord at Wuthering Heights, and it is not a positive experience. And then he finds out all about the history of the events that took place years ago and influenced the history of both Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights. It all started with young Heathcliff and Catherine, and when things didn’t turn out as planned the events that happened next have influenced current and future generations alike…

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I have to admit I was never sure the classics of the Brontë sisters would be my thing, but I’m glad I finally gave Wuthering Heights a go. Audiobook or not, I enjoyed this story so much better than I thought I would even though some of the characters can be quite irritable. The history of both families is intriguing and I will definitely be looking forward to revisit this world some time in the future when I pick up the physical version.


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ARC REVIEW: Big Mushy Happy Lump – by Sarah Andersen

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Title: Big Mushy Happy Lump
(Sarah’s Scribles #2)
Author: Sarah Andersen

Genre: Graphic Novel, Humor, Non Fiction
First published: March 7th 2017
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: January 1st 2017
Pages: 128
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*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I admit I don’t have a lot of experience reading graphic novels, but I fell in love with these illustrations as soon as I saw the cover. And what better way to start the year with a light read full of ‘down to earth’ and endearing illustrations and situations that are extremely easy to relate to? Big Mushy Happy Lump is actually the second comic by the author and is coming out on March 7th; the first, Adulthood Is A Myth, I will be looking forward to read soon. I had a lot of fun reading this graphic novel and it was really easy to connect to the illustrated personal essays of Sarah Andersen. I could see myself in so many of the real-life situations! I mean, I think any booklover can relate to the illustration below…

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The essays are not just about books though. They also talk about the author’s real-life experiences with for example anxiety, career and relationships. These little stories are both fun to read, orginal, easy to relate to and feel authentic; the illustrations a real treat. This bundle would make a perfect gift!

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This second bundle of Sarah’s Scribbles is full of both the most recent fan favorites and dozen’s of all-new comics. The illustrated personal essays are based on the author’s personal real-life experiences with topics as anxiety, career, relationship and other challenges adults have to face.

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I had a lot of fun reading Big Mushy Happy Lump. Not only are the illustrations easy on the eye, it is also really easy to relate to the highly personal little essays. The stories feel authentic and the humor used was right up my alley. I’ve seen the tone being compared to Furiously Happy, and I completely stand behind that comparison. If you are looking for an entertaining graphic novel that talks about real life, this one is an excellent choice!

BOOK REVIEW: Rubyfruit Jungle – by Rita Mae Brown

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Title: Rubyfruit Jungle
Author: Rita Mae Brown

Genre: Classics, Fiction, Glbt
First published: 1973
Publisher: Bantam
Finished reading: December 28th 2016
Pages: 240
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“Oh great, you too. So now I wear this label ‘Queer’ emblazoned across my chest. Or I could always carve a scarlet ‘L’ on my forehead. Why does everyone have to put you in a box and nail the lid on it? I don’t know what I am—polymorphous and perverse. Shit. I don’t even know if I’m white. I’m me. That’s all I am and all I want to be. Do I have to be something?”

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I confess I came across this book by accident, but I was immediately intrigued by both the cover and the blurb. The fact that Rubyfruit Jungle is a coming of age story written back in 1973 and talks about the glbt theme so openly is both impressive and inspiring. I can see why so many people seem to find Rita Mae Brown‘s book that powerful… Because as we follow the main character Molly Bolt, basically every cliche involving the glbt community is included and talked about.  It’s so interesting to read about how the situation was back then and compare them to our current one! The prose is both refreshing and entertaining to read, and I was able to finish this modern classic in no time at all. Molly Bolt isn’t exactly the most ‘perfect’ character out there, but it is so easy to like her with all her flaws. She says and does exactly how she thinks and I can really appreciate that. There is some swearing involved in Rubyfruit Jungle, but in this case it is basically part of the character building. All in all a very interesting read!

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Molly Bolt is the adoptive daughter of a dirt-poor Southern couple who stubbornly decided to find a way to improve her current life. She has been determined not to have other people stop her from reaching her goals and dreams, even if she wants things other people might find odd. That includes Molly finding women more attractive than men, and she refuses to apologize for loving them. But will she be able to succeed in life?

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If you enjoy reading a good glbt coming of age story where the main character doesn’t shy away from saying the painful truth and you don’t mind a bit of colorful prose, I can strongly suggest reading Rubyfruit Jungle. I personally loved the unorthodox prose and I had so much fun reading this story. Molly Bolt is such an intriguing and well developed character and it was really interesting to follow her difficult journey to adulthood. It’s a very original and powerful story and even more impressive if you think about the time when Rubyfruit Jungle was first published.

BOOK REVIEW: The Picture Of Dorian Gray – by Oscar Wilde

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Title: The Picture Of Dorian Gray
Author: Oscar Wilde

Genre: Classics, Fiction, Fantasy
First published: June 20th 1890
Publisher: Random House
Finished reading: December 15th 2016
Pages: 254
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“Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty. There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”

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I have been neglecting my classics way too much this year, so I decided to try and make up for it in this last month of 2016. The Picture Of Dorian Gray has been one of those classics that has been on my radar for a while now, especially since so many fellow bloggers seem to have enjoyed this classic. Now I’ve finally read this novel by Oscar Wilde, I can understand why. Reading classics can normally tend to present quite a challenge, but I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to read The Picture Of Dorian Gray even though it has been written back in the 19th century. The first part is probably the strongest of the story, as the pace slowed down considerably in the middle with the appearance of a lot of long ‘pointless’ lists where Dorian went on and on about random things. Thankfully the pace picked up again later on and the final part is almost as good as the beginning. In general I had a great time reading this classics and it is without doubt a fast-paced and well written story that can entertain us even today. Recommended!

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When Dorian Gray sees the finished portrait Basil Hallward has painted of him, he has such a fear of growing old and unattractive he decides to sell his soul in exchange for eternal youth and beauty. Dorian seems to have switched places with the portrait; he doesn’t seem to age a day, while the portrait is affected by all he does is life… And it is something that might destroy him in the end.

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I’ve had mixed experiences with reading classics in the past, but The Picture Of Dorian Gray has turned out to be one of those exceptions. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this story, and how fast-paced and how easy it was to relate to the story. There is quite a strong message behind the beautiful prose and intriguing plot, and it is without doubt one that can be connected to the 21st century as well. If you are looking for an interesting classic that mostly reads like a train, The Picture Of Dorian Gray is an excellent choice.